A security official uses a tape to cordon off the site of a damaged police bus after an explosion in Karachi yesterday.
KARACHI: Twelve Pakistani policemen were killed yesterday when a bomb was detonated near their bus, the latest in a series of near-daily attacks since the government called for peace talks with militants.
The bombing in the commercial hub of Karachi, which wounded almost 60, comes as Pakistan has been negotiating with the Taliban to end their seven-year insurgency.
Senior police officials initially said the early morning blast was a suicide attack in which a small Suzuki van had smashed into the police bus.
But Raja Umer Khatab, chief of the city’s counter-terrorism unit, later said the van had been parked on the hard shoulder along the bus’s route and was remotely detonated when the two vehicles were side by side.
Shahid Nadeem Baloch, police chief for Sindh province which includes Karachi, confirmed the bomb was remotely detonated, adding the death toll was 12.
Doctor Semi Jamali at Karachi’s Jinnah hospital said 58 people were injured -- both police on the bus and civilian passers-by. Nine of the injured police were in critical condition.
The attack happened in an eastern district of Karachi near the national highway.
Syed Qaim Ali Shah, chief minister of Sindh, announced compensation of two million rupees ($20,000) for families of the victims, and free medical treatment for the injured.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which was the 11th since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced talks on January 29 and said he wants to “give peace another chance”.
Provincial officials vowed the bombing would not deter their campaign to root out criminals and terrorists.
“We are investigating this attack from all angles and who had the most to lose by the forces’ actions and want harm upon them. But the forces will not be demoralised and will work more aggressively,” said Sharjeel Memon, provincial information minister.
The Pakistani Taliban have claimed several attacks on security forces in Karachi, including the assassination of the so-called “super cop” Chaudhry Aslam earlier this year.
Karachi, a city of 18 million people which contributes 42 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, has also been plagued for years by sectarian, ethnic and political violence.
Pakistan has endured a bloody start to the year with 114 people killed in attacks in January, according to an AFP tally.
More than 60 people have died in Islamist-linked violence since Sharif announced the talks.
On Wednesday militants stormed a house of anti-Taliban activists and shot dead nine men in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
On Tuesday a triple grenade attack on a cinema showing pornography in Peshawar killed 13 people.
Both government and militants says they are serious about peace talks but analysts remain sceptical about their chances of success.
Past agreements between the Taliban and the army have proved to be short-lived.
In 2009 the army launched a full-fledged offensive in the northwestern hilly region of Swat, after a two-year local peace deal with the Taliban broke down there.